The Rainier police are warning residents to be aware of real estate scams.
According to the Rainier Police Department, a woman called police after she was scammed out of $1,000. She saw a property for rent in Rainier on Realtor.com and reached out to the listed owner.
“A gentleman pretended to be the owner of the home,” the police press release said, but the suspect never met the victim in person and only coordinated the tour of the property via text.”
That was red flag number one, the police said.
When the woman refused to send any money until they talked on the phone, the man called her from a Miami phone number. An out-of-state number was the second red flag, the police said.
The suspect charged the victim $1,000 through the mobile banking app Zelle as a security deposit before the victim would be allowed to move in. That’s another red flag, police said. The woman paid before “the suspect disappeared.”
According to the rental website Apartment List, an estimated 43% of renters have encountered a listing they suspected was fraudulent and 5.2 million U.S. renters have lost money from rental fraud. One in three lost more than $1,000.
In Portland, 30.4% of renters said they had encountered a suspicion listing and 6.7% said they lost money.
Listings that lack an address or pictures, rent prices that are far below market or an advertised no-screening process are three clues that a listing is a scam, according to Apartment List.
To avoid being scammed, Apartment List suggests visiting a property in person or having someone you trust tour it, verifying the landlord or owner using city records, speaking to current tenants, renting from well-known property management companies, and not paying with cash or a wire transfer, like Zelle.
“Rental applications generally require providing confidential information, such as a Social Security number or bank account number,” Apartment List said. “Verify the legitimacy of a property before providing this information to avoid identity theft.”